Meaning Formation and Situated Learning

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Meaning formation and learning, in this context, are seen as situated activities where new (kin) participants acquire knowledge and skills to later fully and maturely participate in sociocultural activities, traditions, i.e., pass on. A kind of ‘learning by doing,’ but with emphasis on the situated (ethnomethodological) aspect. The individual’s process of individuation, the learning process from child to adult towards a mature individual, is of a social nature, emerging first as peripheral participation, later with a greater degree of engagement and complexity in social and societal development. The ‘socialization’ of children and young people can be seen as a movement from peripheral to mature/full participation in adult life through a series of situated learning processes and developmental paths.

Development, socialization, learning, and social adaptation: the establishment and maintenance of environmental control occur through the creation and maintenance of equilibrium (homeostasis). The driving force for adaptive processes is always a need. A need or interest arises when something outside or inside ourselves (physically or mentally) changes, and behavior must be adjusted accordingly. The equilibrium process occurs through adaptation, which has two aspects: assimilation, where the environment is incorporated into, adapted to the individual’s own activity, the formed structures, and accommodation, where the already formed structures are adapted to external objects.

Situated learning is obviously dependent on the meaning context that the social situation opens up. There is no activity that is not situated. We find ourselves as monads placed, inserted into a social network located in time and place. A network that involves other individuals and their networks (home, school, administration, society as such, etc.). These are individual-specific fields or domains that partly constitute and describe/limit the individual’s resources and at the same time constitute the societal structures that set necessary boundaries for the individual’s possibilities for development and changes in interpersonal interaction. This means that the individual can develop, change, become a new person, a different person in terms of the possibilities that this system of relationships offers. The person’s changed relationships mean that he gradually becomes a ‘fully’ social member and thereby acquires his autonomy and identity.

This means that identity, knowledge, and social membership condition each other. The formation of a self, a personal identity, occurs from this perspective through ‘cloning,’ meaning that the person involves/lets himself be involved in new actions, new functions, new understandings that do not exist in a vacuum. But as situated parts of larger systems of relationships between networks that emerge within the societal context.

Situated learning is used here in the sense of a process where individuals in a group, and through the group’s practice, develop together under the given conditions. The conditions must change under the given conditions. Activity, meaning, and concept formation occur in situated contexts. What we know, can, and believe constitutes a ‘cognitive structure’ in the brain, and teaching aims to collectively change the brain’s construction system. The object is awareness of emotions and their emergence in social interaction (Emotional Intelligence: Goleman).

Namely, not in the form of a successive additive learning process but extinction, freezing of no longer useful constructions. Incorrect knowledge is replaced by correct (the moon is not made of cheese) – idiosyncrasies are uncovered, and sympathies are redirected (all foreign workers are not necessarily social freeloaders). Is there coherence between what is thought and what is done, or are there contradictions and resistance to new knowledge and the experience of change? This applies to the development of relationships between individuals and their changes.

This means that the individual must change himself, and this may involve rejection, consciously or unconsciously avoiding, distorting reality to fit assumptions, preconceived opinions. It happens through consideration, reflection, or trial and error. One gains greater understanding, insight, can accommodate more emotionally. But at the same time, accommodation entails unrest and discomfort at the affective level. Defense mechanisms come into play to bring order to chaos.

The learning processes occur simultaneously. The self can be considered the organizing entity that systematizes, integrates, brings coherence to the learning process structures that shape our experiences. The self is ‘intentional,’ meaning a fundamentally related action through which consciousness reaches out, unfolds into the surroundings, to bring them back to the self, interpreted as things with meaning. Intentionality and Piaget’s ‘adaptation’ are somewhat similar. The self’s consciousness and the surroundings are simultaneous and indivisible entities.

We only know the world through our conscious relations, assimilation, and accommodation, intentionality. If the world presents something new to me, I can identify the thing through similarities and differences. In this way, my new interpretation folds into my previous one, and vice versa, my previous interpretations unfold, fit into the new thing, undergoing a reconstruction in the light of the new thing.

Learning processes are interpersonal. Meanings are constructed together with others. We are mirror-dependent on others’ perceptions of the world and must divide the world into ‘how it looks to me’ and ‘how it looks to others.’ So, we can only approach reality, we do not get it ‘pure,’ but through our own veils and constructions. This means that we simultaneously distort reality! We fit experiences into our own images, diagrams, and metaphors. We are judgmental and prejudiced. There is a possibility of fixation, freezing, self-deception, where deception is a ‘natural’ reaction to prevent the subject from fragmenting, breaking down.

The learning processes are not always pleasurable but are accompanied by feelings of anxiety. On the one hand, one can indeed learn and understand a lot of psychological concepts and descriptions of pathological behavior, but ‘dissociatively’ chosen to be excluded: it does not concern me! There are things that consciousness ‘knows are true,’ but which, in the moment of interpretation, trigger anxiety affects in the self, and emotions and intellect are disconnected.”